I had big plans for this day. I was looking at doing Trappers and X Mountain but after hearing more dangerous heat warning and potential smoke issues I decided to scrap plans....well not exactly. See throughout August and early September more than 5 of my hikes have either been altered or cancelled due to heat and smoke issues. I was getting a little upset about this fact. Though I do light hikes on the weekend before work, I have not been able to really get into any kind of consistency with hiking and peakbagging on my days off. I saw some pictures from Winchester Mountain from just two days before and I was left drooling in front of my computer. I had to go and give this peak a chance.
I woke up the next morning and saw ash falling on all the cars. I was sorely tempted to cancel but I had a group I was going to leading and knowing that Winchester Mountain was pretty far from any wildfire I decided to take a chance here. I rented a truck and met up with up with Dave, Randy and Praveen at the Lynnwood Transit Center. The drive up to the trailhead from Lynnwood was extremely bizarre. There was nothing to see and you could not see the mountains at all. And while driving it would be raining sah on the car. I have never seen anything like it. The final road is a high clearance vehicle road especially passed Yellow Aster Butte. Don't let anyone fool you here and tell you anything otherwise. I was glad to beat up the rented SUV and not my own car here. We were a little shocked to see someone bring a sedan but they were a little afraid of all the damage to the bottom of their car.
A smoky Winchester!!
We got up to Twin Lakes and were greeded with more smoke. In fact we could not see the top of Winchester. Well we got all the way here we might as well do the hike and tag the summit. We all put on our packs and headed up the trail. At 2 miles and 1400 feet of elevation gain this is not much of a workout but with the ash it was bringing some issues. Heading up all of us had some sort of cough or effect from it. We did take it slower here which helped but even doing that we had to take brief breaks from time to time. There is no question that we would have been dramatically quicker without the smoke. Once we got through the pass and to the other side we could see one of Winchester's side peaks and very faintly see an outline of Larrabee in the distance. The trail is in great shape up pretty much all of the way to the summit. There is one minor area before the notch that is slightly iffy but all in all this trail is in excellent shape.
Looking up at Winchester
Summit Views Are Up In Smoke!!!
Larrabee through the smoke
It took us a little longer due to the smoke but we made it to the summit where we were greeted with very limited views. The lookout was in excellent shape which is good news. We could see very faintly Larrabee and we also could barely make out Twin Lakes as well. While on top all of us were talking about cancelling but all of us were thankful not to. There was some value for hiking on this day. We got a new summit and could see a really good place to camp for future trips. Plus the shots from this trip are unique, at least for now. Finally it was not a lot of effort either. After spending any hour hoping that the smoke would blow away we gave up and headed down.
Looking over at the ridge to the west of Winchester.
Looking over a cool subpeak to the west of Winchester.
Is that a drop of rain?
More interesting section of the trail
All of us were bummed about no views opening up. I think most of us want to go back up there again in the near future when there is no smoke. On the way down the air did clear slightly and we could finally see Goat Mountain. I really hope to do that peak in one of my future trips. Then we were greeted with a sprinkle. For all of us this was a welcome sign because it has not rained here much in ages. It was brief and it did not even wet the ground but it did improve air as we got down the mountain. When we got back to Twin Lake we could actually see the top of Winchester. This mountain looks very intimidating for such an easy mountain. Reminds me of Kelly Butte. Soon though we were back in our SUVs and heading back.
Looking toward Goat Peak. Unfortunately this was as good as it got.
Was it worth it??
So was it worth it? The answer here is clearly yes but largely because we had altered plans to a simpler trail. I would have said no had we attempted a larger mountain. But us hiking was far better than being at home and wondering what a hike in the North Cascades would have actually been like. Besides it great being out with cool people, and tagging another peak. This is a beautiful region. I hope to be back in there area when the smoke has clearly, LIKE LATER THIS WEEK!!